German automaker Volkswagen (VW) recently unveiled the concept for their next vehicle at the New York Auto Show: the Atlas Tanoak. Built on an extended wheelbase Atlas SUV frame, the Tanoak is Volkswagen’s proverbial toe in the waters of the United States truck market. While this isn’t the first truck VW has released, it is the first in the United States and Canada since the mid-1980s. Mexico, however, still receives the Saveiro, VW’s ute, making it the only Volkswagen pickup in North America. Volkswagen revealed their concept to a crowd of journalists, insiders and enthusiasts at the New York Auto Show.
Volkswagen said they haven’t planned for the production of the Tanoak, but instead are testing the reception of the concept. If there seems to be enough interest from the public, they may look more seriously into joining the fray. It makes sense VW would want a piece of the American truck market. Pickups accounted for nearly sixteen percent of all American vehicle sales last year, making it a massive segment of the vehicle population. While Volkswagen has released several SUVs over the last decade and a half, the introduction of a truck to their North American lineup would fill out their roster and give them a shot in a market they are currently unrepresented in.
The Atlas Tanoak is a dual cab short-bed pick up, coming in at 214.1 inches, (5,440 mm) long, or just shorter than the Chevy Colorado with a similar setup. However, the Tanoak has a slightly larger bed than its closest domestic rival, which could be a selling point for some consumers. The truck is also slated to sport a 3.6 Liter V6 which should push out 276 horsepower. It also features a movable rail over the bed for cargo.
There was no talk of a diesel option, which shouldn’t surprise anyone since ‘diesel’ has become a bit of a four-letter word for Volkswagen.
The front end is stylish and modern, with an LED light bar across the grille that illuminates with the VW emblem. The vehicle looks both beefy and sleek, which fits it nicely in the current design philosophy of American truck makers, with one major exception: the Tanoak is a unibody design. North American truck makers have traditionally favored the body-on-frame design for its strength and rigidity. However, the Honda Ridgeline has proven there is a place for unibody trucks in the US market.
The Tanoak relies on the unibody design because it has been built on the highly versatile MQB platform VW uses for everything from the seven-seat Atlas SUV, which the Tanoak is modeled after, to the Audi TT. Since the small truck would be subject to the “chicken tax” — a twenty-five percent tariff on select imported goods — VW is looking to make full use of their Chattanooga plant, where they utilize the MQB platform and produce the Atlas already.
VW’s newest concept for their North American lineup may have kicked up a stir, but we will have to wait to see if the German automaker will be pushing the Tanoak into full production. Updates to come as this story unfolds.